Over the course of two weeks in June and July of 2015, I recorded 24 songs, most of which were ones that I played when I was learning to sing and play the guitar in my teens and early twenties. They draw mostly from the “Glam” (David Bowie-Iggy Pop-Lou Reed/Velvets) and country (Hank Williams-Johnny Cash) traditions, hence the name “Glam-a-Billy”. They were recorded to two tracks live (single takes, but rarely first takes), and I mixed them with the vocals in left channel, and the guitar in the right. I recorded them this way with collaboration in mind. I hope that live music collaborators might create parts to go along with the way I play the songs by playing along (including even replacing the vocals or guitar if you want), and that recorded music collaborators might use them in multitrack recording / editing projects. All of the songs start with a count in on drums, and the beats per minute are included in the file names. In the rest of this post, I’ll give some more history on the project, further details about the recordings, and further ideas on how they can be used. They can be heard and downloaded on this SoundCloud page:
As well as being the music of my youth, this is my “roots music”, my “folk music”. These are the songs I would play if we were passing a guitar around at a party. I had left this music to follow other directions (more originals, more disco-punk), but I’ve recently had the chance to start sharing this music with people again, and I want to keep doing it. Three of them are songs I wrote while learning many of the others when I was traveling in Asia when I was 20. I’d never recorded them before, though I did play them with “Hungry Tim”. A few of the covers I learned just recently, but as I was developing them, it became clear that they were becoming part of the “Glam-a-Billy” repertoire. I came up with that name for the “genre”, and adopted my stage name and a new habit of wearing makeup, for the Fete de la Musique that was held in Nantes just before I did the recordings – you can see video of that perfomance here.
As I mentioned above, I recorded these all in single takes. I did this for the training that it gave me for playing these songs live, but also because it minimized the amount I had to interact with the computer. It’s also a fun and challenging game when you don’t save previous takes: “Do I think I can do it better????” But given that disk space is cheap, there’s no real reason that to subject yourself to that (although it does save listening trying to pick a take…)
They were recorded using a Sennheiser MK IV mic (sounds good to me), and a Squier Bigsby Cabronita (great guitar, except that the bridge height screws come loose all the time, especially if you use the Bigsby, and also except for the fact that Cort, who has a bad labor record, builds them on a subcontract). Both went into a Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 (great piece of gear, except that it sometimes needs to be turned on and off to connect properly). They were recorded 24 bit 44.1 khz, and mixed to AIFF-C, which preserves that bit depth. I used Logic Pro X presets on each one: Classic Vocals and Chicken Pickin’ (note if you use Logic or similar software and want to mix with hard pans like I did: make sure to turn off the Bus sends). Let me know if you’d like them with no effects, or some other effect. I picked that guitar sound because I wanted something fairly neutral, that gave a bit of a country feel, and was relatively close to an acoustic. I might have preferred doing a lot of this on an acoustic, but I couldn’t get a good recorded sound given my current abilities and guitar. I played with a simple bass-snare pattern from a drum machine to try to stay in time – you can hear it at the beginning of each track (you could copy and paste it if you want a guide track yourself and don’t have a drum machine). Most of the songs are 4/4, with the exception of the intro guitar bit of Ziggy, which I played with some parts in 3 (sounds right to me, but I didn’t go back to check the recording).
I uploaded all the songs I recorded, except “Lovesick Blues”, which didn’t sound good enough to me. It’s to my mind Hank Williams’ best song – listen to it here. I think the mistake I made was to play it too straight up – I’ve in general tried to avoid competing too directly with the originals (usually this actually came naturally, but sometimes I had to push them away consciously).
SoundCloud converts the songs to mpegs for streaming, but if you download them, you’ll get the uncompressed AIFF-C files.
I have collaborators in mind who I hope will use these tracks, but I would be extremely happy to find out that other people used them, especially if they shared their work for further public collaboration via SoundCloud or some other way, or if I get the chance to play them live with new people. In any case, I’d appreciate if you let me know if you use them, and also link back to this page or the SoundCloud page if you post anything based on them.
To record a new tracks, load the files into any multitrack recording program (or recorder – tape still sounds great!), and set the beats per minute accordingly, if applicable. If you want to contribute to this project via SoundCloud, mix the previously existing work into one channel, and put your contribution on the other. That way, people have a clean version of your track to use if they wish.
Depending on how this project progresses, I might set up a site for further collaborative work. But for now, you are more than welcome to share your stuff with other people who come here in comments, or on Vernon Valiquette’s Facebook timeline.
As well as for collaborating, I hope these recordings might be fun to just play along with – I’m looking forward to (finger) drumming along myself.
I’m planning to put together a “Fake Book” for these songs, but in the meantime please let me know if you want to know the chords or anything else.